On all the boards
Welcome to the Burgundy Canal!

My name is Léa and I am a seasonal lock-keeper!
Take a look at my logbook and come along with me for a canal adventure the whole of its 242-kilometre length. It’s a real masterpiece of civil engineering as well as one of the loveliest ways to get from the Channel to the Mediterranean!
Meet me at every noticeboard by the canal. Have a great time exploring!

The canal is greedy

This is a canal with a summit section linking 2 catchment basins: the Yonne with an elevation of 300 metres and the Saône at 200.

Its water consumption is used to maintain the levels of the canal reaches and to fill its 189 locks. The ingenious builders designed an original system to provide hydraulic power for the canal and to supply it with water:

Aqueducts, valves, weirs

Channels, reservoirs

All these work together to regulate the hydraulic operation of the canal.

6 reservoirs for one canal

To keep the canal supplied with water, 6 reservoirs were built: Cercey, Panthier, Grosbois, Chazilly, Le Tillot and Pont-et-Massène. They are usually located around the summit section except at Pont-et-Massène which is more downstream on the Yonne side. These sections of water are fed by streams or rivers, or by the channels called ‘fillers’.

Other channels, called ‘feeders’, direct the water to the canal and its basins. The water reaches the canal by simple force of gravity alone. The 4km channel from Cercey reservoir that feeds into the canal at the port of Pouilly works in this way. The Pont-et-Massène reservoir provides drinking water for the surrounding communities.


Cercey reservoir has an important population of water birds either gathering before they migrate or over-wintering here: coots, grey geese, green-winged teals and ducks.

It’s also the home of the red kite which come to nest and hunt.

There are several walks you can do following the channels.

In 1919, at Cercey reservoir

Léa meets Louise, the wife of the dam supervisor

“Be careful, young lady! You mustn’t climb on the dam! If my husband saw you…He supervises everything, that man, especially the dam! Since it was built in 1834, there’ve been landslides and slippages lots of times. It keeps having to be strengthened, that dratted dam just made out of earth! And it’s one kilometre long! Its retaining height is 12.30 m. My job is to look after the guard house, the garden and the orchard. There certainly aren’t many neighbours round here. But strange things still happen here all the same! Four years ago, in the month of March, two men came with a strange flying machine. ‘It’s Alphonse Papin and Didier Rouilly, trying out their monocopter,’ said my husband. Well, the machine, it finished up in the bottom of the reservoir! It joined what’s left of the Roman villa; when they empty the reservoir you can still see the ruins! But that’s enough chatting, I’ve got washing to hang out! Come back whenever you like, my dear!”

The chain boat Hall and the Billebaude

The electric chain boat from 1893 which used to pull the boats under the arches of Pouilly-en-Auxois is now at rest. It is housed on the port in a work of art: the translucent hall in cardboard tubes by the Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban.

To experience the atmosphere of the tunnel crossing and understand the life of the bargemen, you just need to come on board the ‘Billebaude’, a cruise boat whose name recalls the famous novel of Henri Vincenot.


1724 A canal project is agreed after much deliberation concerning the route

1775 Work begins on both banks

1826-1832 Pouilly tunnel is dug out

1833 The whole canal is opened to traffic

1872-1882 Standardised to Freycinet gauge (lengthening of the lock chambers)

Nineteenth century The industrial boom

Twentieth century Gradual transition from industry and commerce to tourism and leisure

2010 Creation of the cycle path

Nowadays you can travel on the water for pleasure or enjoy cycling along the cycle path that follows the old towpath. It’s an ideal opportunity to discover the wealth of our heritage as you explore!